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Saharan sand storms forecast to hit France

The Local France
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Saharan sand storms forecast to hit France
Thick sand blown in from the Sahara gives the sky a yellowish appearance over Nice. (Photo by Valery HACHE / AFP)

Skies will turn orange across most of France this weekend as Saharan sand storms are forecast to hit the country, bringing with them health warnings about air quality.

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Weather forecasters are predicting three days of sand storms covering almost all of France, starting on Friday evening.

Last weekend six départements in the south-east of the country activated pollution alerts because of the sand in the air, while snow on the Alps took on a distinctly sandy tone and the skies over Nice and Montpellier were obscured by a sepia cloud.

The phenomenon is not unusual, but the event at the end of March was the most intense in several years - and the one predicted for this weekend is set to be even stronger. It will also encompass the whole of France, which is more unusual.

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With temperatures expected to get up to 25C in Paris and close to 30C in the south of the country over the weekend, meteorologists predict that clouds of sand from the Sahara are ‘inevitable’.

"The latest modelling predicts a major episode over a large part of France over the weekend of Saturday April 6th and Sunday April 7th, 2024,” BFMTV forecaster Guillaume Séchet reported. 

"Strong winds in the upper atmosphere will pull the sand from Africa to France, starting on Friday evening and intensifying on Saturday and Sunday.

"Substantial concentrations are expected, similar to those observed in the south-east of the country last week, but this time over a large part of the country.”

The sandstorms are likely to create the distinctive 'orange' skies over much of the country, but also bring with them health risks.

It is likely that pollution alerts will be activated in multiple areas, including the greater Paris region, because of a degradation in the air quality due to the sand.

Antoine Trouche of Airparif, the organisation that monitors air quality in the Paris region said: "At least on Saturday and Sunday, air quality in the Paris region will deteriorate due to the presence of these sand particles.

"In the sand mists that travel in the atmosphere there are small particles that are less than ten micrometres in diameter, and these particles are capable of breaking through the natural barriers that we have, particularly in the nose, and therefore of getting into the lungs."

Those in high risk groups - pregnant women, small children and anyone suffering from any kind of respiratory condition - is advised to limit their exposure over the weekend.

Others may notice symptoms linked to respiratory irritation such as a sore throat or cough. Anyone who experiences difficulty breathing should seek medical help, and if it is an emergency contact the ambulance services on 15, or the European number 112.

Emergency in France: Who to call and what to say

You will also likely notice deposits of fine sand on windows, driveways and cars, especially in areas where it has rained.

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